“The Transition to Ecosocialism”
Transcript of speech by Quincy Saul, June 26, 2013
IV Congress of Biological Diversity:
“Dibujando Nuestro Ecosocialismo” (Drawing Our Ecosocialism)
Paraguana, Falcon, Lara, Venezuela
(scroll down for videos)
Thank you so much for inviting and receiving me. It is a tremendous honor to be invited to this congress. It is an honor not only to be in Venezuela, but to be here in Paraguana, to be a small part of the noble history of struggle against imperialism which began here with the Caquetio people and with the Cacique Manaure.
Here another chapter begins, the chapter of ecosocialism. It is a necessary chapter, because even with all the great victories of this revolutionary process, this place still suffers. Today we can still sing the famous song1 by Ali Primera, about the contamination of oil here; “Que buena vaina, Paraguana, What do you say, Paraguana?” And to the vaina of the gas flares at the refinery, we can now add the vaina of the big mall here and the contamination of consumerism, with all its billboards.2 The old song of Ali Primera is a challenge for us, a challenge which must be resolved. So thank you again for inviting me to offer my grain of sand in confronting this challenge, because it is really the challenge of all humanity.
They have asked me to speak here today about the transition to ecosocialism. Maybe this is a little strange, because I come from the belly of the beast, from the capitol of capitalism. I come from the city of New York, the United States, from gringolandia. How can I explain to you the politics of my country? Bush left power, but it still smells like sulfur. There is a Black man in the White House, but he just invaded Africa. More or less, that’s the summary of the political scenario of the government of the USA. It continues, in the words of Simon Bolivar, as if it were “destined by providence to plague America with miseries in the name of liberty.” But resistance exists: we are working, like antibodies in the bloodstream of empire, to transform our conditions from below.
I am part of a small but growing organization which is called Ecosocialist Horizons. We have a nucleus of around a dozen people, but in the last year and a half our ideas and actions have reached thousands of people around the world. We do various things; we work in a campaign to free a political prisoner in the US, Russell Maroon Shoatz, a veteran of the Black Panthers who now identifies as ecosocialist. We’ve made a few publications, such as a book by this political prisoner, called “Maroon the Implacable,” and this other one, “A World Where Many Worlds Fit,” by Fred Ho, which we’re distributing free here today. We’ve also launched a radio program. Finally, we have organized three large convergences, where we’ve brought together leaders of different social and environmental movements, to develop plans and strategies within the ecosocialist vision. And in everything, we combine culture; music, poetry and art, as an integral and central part of the politics.
But I don’t want to talk much today about the work that we do in gringolandia, because what is happening now in Venezuela is much more interesting. The transition to ecosocialism in the US is on a very distant horizon. The majority of people have never heard of the word. We have many activists, but very few revolutionaries. So we are very far from a transition. But here in Venezuela, the transition is on the immediate horizon, in every direction, all around us. This congress is, and we are, the transition to ecosocialism.
I can’t go further without recognizing and mourning, from the North American perspective, the passing of Hugo Chavez. He was a visionary not only for Venezuela, but for the whole world. I lack words for a man of so many words, but I think I do know the most important question about Chavez: What is his mandate? What will his legacy be? I think that the answer is very clear here; there is a big display in the other building: the legacy of Chavez, the mission of the Venezuelan people, and also their patrimony, is ecosocialism. We know it, and now we have to work to make sure everyone else knows it.
What is ecosocialism? It arises from the consciousness that we are in an economic and ecological crisis without precedent, which threatens all life on earth, that the cause of this is capitalism, and that the crisis cannot be resolved by environmentalism (which often doesn’t understand capitalism), or by the socialism of the 20th century (which often doesn’t understand ecology). Ecosocialism is still socialism, but it also breaks with socialism. It breaks from socialism in a way which opens up a space, a space to sow seeds for the far future and to grow roots into ancient traditions; to connect ourselves with the original peoples and their cosmovisions. Because as ecosocialists, unlike many socialists of the 20th century, we recognize the intrinsic value of nature. I believe that the ecosocialist vision is much more profound than the vision of 20th century socialism, because we are talking about not just transforming human relations, but about transforming them in the context of a new relationship with nature.
In particular, even more than in socialist thought, ecosocialism must mean the struggle for the liberation of women. I say it at the beginning, because this is often left until the end for a footnote. But the liberation of women from patriarchy has to be part of everything we do, from the very beginning. This is recognized in this historic and fabulous document, the National Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity, 2010-2020. It says: “This environmental crisis is part of a terminal crisis of a patriarchal model of civilization based on the submission and destruction of human beings and nature.” We are up against not only the capitalist system, but also a mode of thinking, and a course of development which originated long before capitalism.
This is the ecosocialist perspective of human history: The first detour in the history of humanity was our alienation from nature. At this moment the origins of patriarchy also arose. Women were identified with nature and the earth, and men were identified as above and superior. This division between the genders, which came together with our alienation from nature, is in all the mythology and history, from Adam and Eve, up to the present. From the original patriarchy, the first division in the human species, came all different kinds of class societies. The most recent and the most destructive of these class societies, we know as capitalism.
Capitalism is not just “an economic system” – it is a social system, which has created this thing we call “the economy”, and subordinated everything, from the soil to the sky, to its laws. The economy becomes the central organizing force of society, and also its limit, which cannot be transgressed.
The goal of socialism is thus to emancipate ourselves from capitalism, from the economy. Ecosocialism then is the political project which aims, once and for all, to overthrow not only capitalism, but also patriarchy and our alienation from nature.
So then what is the transition to ecosocialism? It is a process of navigating contradictions. These contradictions are the terrain of the transition. Contradictions aren’t bad. The historian of science, Alfred North Whitehead, has said that “in formal logic, a contradiction is the signal of defeat. But in the evolution of real knowledge, it is marks the first step towards victory.”3
I am going to try and identify the central contradictions in Venezuela today, which are not defeats, but steps toward victory. As Bertold Brecht said, “in the contradiction is the hope.” (And if the analysis of the gringo is wrong, then I hope there is some hope in my contradictions as well.)
In another historic and visionary document, The Declaration of Monte Carmelo, which our collective has translated into english, it is written: “We believe that the current treatment of our native seeds is evidence that we continue to live under an economic model that is insatiable, commercializing and merciless.” Many people have said similar things here in the last few days: a revolutionary process exists here in Venezuela, but we also still have capitalism breathing over our shoulders.
What follows is my humble attempt to understand what is happening here. I believe that there are five central contradictions, which together form the terrain that we must navigate in the transition to ecosocialism. Five steps to victory.
The first: National Sovereignty and Imperialism
This is the primary and most basic contradiction which defines political reality here. It is the contradiction between a revolutionary process and all the forces of imperialism which try to contain and suppress it. This is the first contradiction, but I’m not going to say much more about this, because I think it’s well understood. But many people, including a lot of the left in the US, only understand this contradiction. Sovereignty is good, but reactionary nationalism is still sovereign. So the way in which we construct sovereignty can’t be the same as what came out of Europe; defined by markets and borders. In the National Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity, they put forward an alternative vision of sovereignty: “True sovereignty is achieved only by breaking with the commodification of human beings and nature.” So this first contradiction is important, essential to understand and overcome, but it is insufficient.
The second: Revolution and Counter-Revolution
Here I’m talking about the escualidos.4 But it seems that they weren’t so escualido in the last election! Now we know that we can’t under-estimate them. You know much more about this than I do, and I don’t need to say much more on this point. We should remember Simon Bolivar when he said that “we will never be lucky, never.” The revolutionary forces must be consolidated. But in order to do this we have to take charge of another contradiction….
The third: Revolution and Reformism
Let’s remember the words of Chavez here: “Reformism can accompany a revolution for some time, but there is a barrier beyond which reformism becomes counter-revolutionary, and this is what is happening now.” He said this at the foundation of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela in 2007. He said “this is one of the most grave dangers that we confront, within us; it is like cholesterol.”
We’re not talking about the escualidos, or the ni nis.5 We are talking about the rojo rojito: the people that wear the red Tshirts and support the process, but who believe that we can arrive to socialism with votes and elections, without struggling, without deeply transforming the country and the society. Subcommandante Marcos of the Zapatistas said something similar to Chavez, also in 2007:
“There is a commercial for a cookie which will give you a spectacular figure if you eat it, without doing any more exercise than putting it in your mouth and chewing. In the same way, in recent years the idea has gained force among progressive intellectuals, that social relations can be transformed without struggling, and without touching the privileges which the powerful enjoy.”
Of course, there is nothing new here. Reformism has always existed, like cholestrol and diet cookies. As Simon Bolivar said, “everyone wants to see new results without changes, and changes without movements.”
But moral condemnation is not going to resolve this problem. We are not here to judge the world, but to save it, as one of the first anti-imperialists in the world said, over 2000 years ago. To save the world – the fifth and final objective of the Plan Patria 2013-20196, and the mandate of Chavez. Here it’s clear that we embark upon our next contradiction, on a global scale:
The fourth: World Revolution, or State Capitalism
Many people talk about state capitalism here in Venezuela. In fact it’s important to note that Chavez spoke about state capitalism in the same speech in which he launched his socialist vision for Venezuela in 2005. On that occasion at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2005, he said
“We can’t fall into state capitalism, that would be the same perversion as the Soviet Union. We must reclaim socialism as a thesis, as a project and a path, but a new kind of socialism, humanist, which puts humanity in charge, not machines or the state.”
We should remember: socialism means that we change social relations, not just relations of production. It means that we change the way we live, not just our boss, or the size of our salary. You can have 200 bosses instead of one, and still behave like a capitalist. Or you can replace the head of a private corporation with a state-appointed manager, and continue to suffer exploitation. You can even nationalize PDVSA7, and continue to produce at the rhythm of the international market.
This isn’t a matter of leadership or the opposition, it is a fact about the world system. Without confronting and overturning capitalism as a world system, we are condemned to some form of state capitalism that will be subordinated to the international market. If we change the owners of the means of production, but we don’t change the relations of production – how we work, how we plan, how we make decisions – then we are condemned once again to never arrive at the horizon of our hopes. In other words, as long as the economy continues to be the central organizing force of society, we have not arrived at our liberation.
We know that some kind of state capitalism exists here in Venezuela today, because it is convenient to the bourgeois press in the US. For example, there is an article in the New Yorker, a part liberal, part fascist magazine, which is very much anti-Chavez and this revolutionary process. But in a recent article, they admit that the process – thus far – is convenient for them, because so far the major industries have not been nationalized, because markets have been left largely untouched, and because there hasn’t been any large scale land reform. This article concludes saying that “if this is socialism, this is the most business-friendly socialism that has ever existed in history.”8 That was the New Yorker!
In this contradiction we find the Boliburguesia, and the Boligarchia.9 Something similar happened in Russia and China too – a managerial class took advantage of the situation. They enriched themselves when the owners of the mean of production got changed, but the relations of production stayed the same.
(Live broadcast on TVES, part 1)
So the revolutionary process has to continue, as Chavez said in 2007 at the launch of the PSUV, “this is the march to the depths. . . . but we will not have full, integral socialism, if we don’t begin to transform the capitalist economic model which we still have in Venezuela.”
So we have to choose, as CLR James suggested long ago: state capitalism or world revolution? I am only saying in specific and analytic terms what it says in the last words of the Plan Patria 2013-2019; something Simon Bolivar said to the heroes of the battle of Las Queseras: “What you have done is nothing more than a prelude of what you may do. Prepare yourselves for battle and count on victory.” This takes us to the last contradiction, the final step towards victory, which has brought us all together here in Paraguana:
The fifth: Ecosocialism and Petrosocialism
This is the great contradiction, with the most grave consequences for the future, and which must be resolved in the context of all the other contradictions.
Venezuela, like the US, is addicted to oil. Long ago, Jose Marti said that “the people which trusts its subsistence to one single product commits suicide.” But in this case and in our times, with global warming, this addiction is not suicidal for only Venezuela, but for the entire world.
Ecosocialism means that we overcome imperialism, counter-revolution, reformism, and state capitalism. But it also means that we prioritize the integrity of ecosystems. So in many cases, ecosocialism must mean that we leave the oil in the soil.
Chavez himself indicated this path many years ago, at least as early as 2006, when he was working to resolve a conflict in Zulia, between the state mining company Corpozulia and the peoples which lived there. Listen to what Chavez said in 2006 to the manager of Corpozulia:
“I said look, if there’s not a method which assures respect for the forests and mountains which took millions of years to form up there in the Sierra de Perija, where there is coal, if there is no method which can show me truly truly that they are not going to destroy the forest or contaminate the environment of those peoples, if you can’t show me, then that coal stays in the ground, we won’t take it out, it will stay underground. I say this as a fact, but a fact which also marks a line and a concept, which every day should be more of a reality, which should concretize itself in the model for the construction of socialism.”
So, ecosocialism means leaving the coal in the mountain, the oil under the ocean, and etc. But it also means much more than the slogan “leave the oil in the soil.” Ecosocialism means a new mode of development, a new mode of production, different from the socialism of the 20th century. The Soviet Union and China tried to run the same race as the capitalist countries; they tried to produce even more than the imperialists. And the result is that they poisoned their countries, from the soil to the sky. They distributed what they produced in a much more just way, but they didn’t really change the development model. Profit was replaced by production, as an end in itself, and the result was another society organized like a factory, built on the conquest of nature and the subordination of workers – not to mention patriarchy!
So ecosocialism means a new understanding of human fulfillment, of human development. We don’t need all these artifacts of industrial civilization to live a full, beautiful and dignified life. Buen vivir is not necessarily constructed with surplus value. Ecosocialism signifies that we stop producing commodities, and start with the production of ecosystems, which means reproducing ourselves as part of these ecosystems. Ecosocialism means that in every action we have to think about its effect on the next seven generations, as all the indigenous peoples of the world advise us.
When we transform the way we relate to nature, we will also transform the way we relate with one another. And the integral promise of ecosocialism is that a truly emancipated person will protect the integrity of nature just as they would protect their own body. This is the ecosocialist horizon – it is a horizon which extends as far as the eye can see, and which also dawns from a very deep place inside each of us.
Very different from the socialism of the 20th century, ecosocialism doesn’t necessarily come from the factory. It must come equally from the llanos, from the Andes, from the rainforest, from the Tepui, form the Caribbean.10 Rural communes can be the nucleus of revolutionary transformation, not only the urban factories.
Michael Lebowitz, a theorist of socialism who has lived in Venezuela for many years, in his last book, defines socialism as “real human development.”11 From an ecosocialist perspective, this is necessary but insufficient. Real human development is good, but only if it occurs in the context of the integral development of the ecosystem. If human development doesn’t occur this way, then it is a superficial vision, which can do great injustice to future generations. This isn’t something you can just add on at the end as a footnote. Human development has to be the same thing as the development of ecosystems. So ecosocialism is not just a new mode of production, but a new mode of existence. It is not based on the production of surplus value, but on the intrinsic value of nature.
In 2005, a group in Venezuela wrote an ecosocialist manifesto against nuclear energy. In this document, they define very clearly a contradiction between petrosocialism and ecosocialism. They wrote:
“In Marxist terms, it is imperative to go beyond the old principle according to which the productive forces, when entering into contradiction with the dominant social relations of production, are the principle determinant of the revolutionary process. Today it is pertinent to re-evaluate this axiom and consider also the possibility that certain classes of productive forces (technologies), modeled historically on relations of production which are exploitative of humanity and nature, cannot be integrated into an alternative mode of production, or their adoption will reproduce the old structure of domination and be an obstacle to the birth of the new social order.”
They were talking about nuclear energy. But they could just as easily be talking about genetically modified organisms. Moreover, they could have been talking about the entire oil industry! Like Marx said about the state in his writings about the Paris Commune: you cannot simply grab the means of production developed by capitalism, and use them to build a different society. Indeed Marx insisted that the capitalist state be smashed!
There is a saying in the occupied territories of the USA, that you can’t use the master’s tool to destroy the master’s house. And to say it in a Venezuelan context – it is imperative to separate, once and for all, sovereignty, development, and the revolutionary process, from the oil economy. As the Venezuelan visionary Salvador Plaza said in 1960, “we must stop being an oil country, but not in words or declarations, but in facts.” This marks a very clear line between petrosocialism and ecosocialism.
(Live broadcast on TVES, part 2)
Only with all this in mind can we begin to navigate the turbulent waters of our revolutionary future. As Andre Gide said, “if we want to discover new lands, we need to the courage to lose sight of the shore.” We have a long and stormy journey ahead, and we must leave the oil behind. Edward Gibbon, writing in another time about the decline and fall of empire, wrote that “the wind and waves are always on the side of the best navigators.”
What are the winds and waves of the 21st century? They are not only political, social and economic but ecological. Climate chaos has arrived. Welcome the 6th mass extinction. Global warming is only the most grave expression of the culmination of thousands of ecological catastrophes that fill all the corners of the planet. To say it simply, if “business as usual,” normality, the predatory system, if it continues for another ten or twenty years, then in the centuries to come we will confront the end of life on earth as we know it.
In the best of cases, according to the scientists, if this system continues, we can count on the displacement of 70 percent of the world’s population, who live in coastal cities. When the oceans rise, we can also count on the salinization of a large amount of the arable land on the planet. The whole continent of Africa will be cooked, coral reefs will disappear, and the Amazon rainforest will become a desert. This is not something that will happen in the future; it has already begun. There are already more refugees of climate change than from war. Already China loses 1500 square kilometers to desert every year. We’re already losing the reefs, and the slow genocide of drought has already begun in Africa.
And in the worst of cases, we will convert our blue planet into a red planet like Venus, where the rocks glow. If we continue to burn all the fossil fuels (that is, oil, coal, natural gas, etc) it may be possible to cook the planet to the point of no return. Venus had oceans in its past, but the oceans boiled from an exponential greenhouse effect. It will never have oceans again. Here on our planet we run the risk of a Venus effect, that is to say, to cause not only our own extinction, but that of all life on the planet forever.
The imperialists are studying this situation much more closely than social movements, for the most part. The CIA has named climate change national security threat number one. So we have to prepare ourselves not only for the winds and the waves, but also for the sharks. More than ever, remember Bolivar: “we’ll never by lucky, never.” This is the context for the transition to ecosocialism. It is necessary not only because it is most just, it is necessary to save life, to stop the extinction.
(Closing Plenary “Dibujando Nuestro Ecosocialismo”; left to right: Jorge Riechmann [Professor and poet, Spain] Quincy Saul [Ecosocialist Horizons] Mario Sanoja [Professor of Anthropology] Jorge Arreaza (Vice-President of Venezuela), Stella Lugo [Governor of the state of Falcon], Miguel Angel Nuñez [Latin American Institute of Agroecology], and (?) from the local PDVSA refinery)
So what is the transition to ecosocialism, concretely? I believe that Venezuela has perhaps the most fortuitous conditions the world to begin such a transition. The fact that popular power has direct influence at the level of the state, combined with the ecosocialist consciousness which is growing everywhere, above and below, fortified by the immense wealth which Venezuela has – these are the conditions which make a transition possible, if all the contradictions can be successfully navigated. It must come from above and below. To begin, I offer four proposals for the transition in Venezuela:
1. Begin the immediate transition away from an oil infrastructure, and toward an energy infrastructure based on solar energy. But it is not enough to build solar panels with energy derived from oil. The renewable energy industry must be able to reproduce itself. In other words, the solar infrastructure needs to develop the capacity to build solar panels with solar energy. We have an associate in the US named David Schwartzman, who is an expert in the technical aspect of how to make a solar transition. He is making calculations on a world scale to respond to questions like: how much oil do we/can we use to build a renewable energy infrastructure, to be able to leave the rest of the oil in the soil, while at the same time fighting poverty and satisfying people’s needs? I asked him to do some calculations about Venezuela and this is what he told me:
“In the time of only a decade, it should be possible to use a relatively small fraction of the energy derived from petroleum to create a renewable energy capacity to replace the use of fossil fuels, and also to provide the 3.5kW per capita to all of the people who live in the MERCOSUR countries, with the technology which we have and which is coming in for wind and solar.”12
This is the unprecedented challenge that Venezuela has: to use its oil in such a way so that it can stop using it in the future. That is to say, to use exctractivism to get out of extractivism. Petroleum, for the people of Venezuela and for all of humanity, has been like the yolk of an egg. We have developed with it, but now we have to be born, we have to break and leave the shell, and learn to fly on our own. Venezuela should and can, that is to say it has the capacity, to convert itself into the world center of renewable energy technology. Bring experts from around the world to build the infrastructure! Pay for it all with oil, and do it all as soon as possible, because we’re out of time! Then, export this knowledge and technology all over the world, like the Cubans send doctors!
2. Begin a process of de-urbanization. The current socio-territorial ordering of Venezuela, like many parts of the world, is unsustainable, and it is unavoidable to transform it. This is written, from the perspective of the preservation of biological diversity, in the National Strategy for the Conservation of Biological Diversity 2010-2020:
“This concept of land compartmentalized into protected areas, productive areas, residential areas, and others, constitutes an unsustainable socio-territorial order. . . . a new, coherent socio-territorial order is necessary. . . . This model should take into consideration ecological precepts in the process of rational resource management and land use planning and contemplate the development and spatial organization of a new socio-productive endogenous model founded on sustainability. This model could be materialized and put into practice by eco-socialist communes with people that actively participate in their own management processes in a sustainable way. ”
This extraordinary document embarks upon resolving one of humanity’s most ancient problems – the division between city and country. A transition towards ecosocialism must begin here as well, in a process of de-urbanization which has two parts: (A) To move from the city to the country, taking with us all the things which are good about urban life; cultural diversity, the exchange of ideas, the diversity of peoples, etc. We are talking about a process of exodus from the metropolis, but which preserves what is good about this form of existence. And at the same time, we must (B) move the country to the city. We must develop urban agro-ecologies, or as Jorge Riechmann says in his book “Socialism Can Only Arrive by Bicycle,”13 we need “an ecosystemic conception of the city,” and “an alliance between the city and the forest.” An example of this process of transition can be seen in the city of Havana, Cuba, where a large percentage of the city’s food is grown within the city limits.
3. Following the logic of the previous point, we must transform agriculture. For this we have a guide: The Declaration of Monte Carmelo! It is a manifesto for the ecosocialist transformation of agriculture. Today, almost 60% of all carbon emissions come directly or indirectly from industrial agriculture. We must change our system of agriculture, not only because it is poisoning the soil and exploiting the farmer, but because it is prerequisite to saving the planet. The transition to an ecosocialist agriculture can be realized through training programs on a national scale, in which cadre will be trained in agro-eclogy, to be sent around the country and around the world on this historic mission!
4. The plans for economic integration with the rest of South America, and with Abya Yala, will have to be transformed. We have to rethink the infrastructure upon which the beautiful promise of ALBA14 has been constructed. In particular, we have to rethink IIRSA15 and UNASUR16. I was very concerned to learn that these plans for regional integration have been built upon the same infrastructural skeleton as the ALCA17. How can we nurture ALBA in the womb of ALCA? Many of the projects for the development of infrastructure are highly destructive of ecosystems, and also threaten indigenous peoples. Therefore we are in need of a new model of development, to attain a new mode of existence. We have to think about not only changing the distribution of resources – we have to rethink production itself.
All of this requires an alliance of revolutionaries in government and in the grassroots. But most of all the transition to ecosocialism requires struggle from below, against the forces of counter-revolution, against reformism, against state capitalism, and for a global ecosocialist revolution.
A transition to ecosocialism also needs a cultural revolution. For hundreds and thousands of years, we have been colonized by a way of living and thinking that must be demolished if we are to move towards ecosocialism. An example: in 2009, I was living in Caracas, and I saw a big mural with with quote from Simon Bolivar. Maybe you’ve seen it: “If nature opposes us, we must fight against her and make her obey us.” What do you say Paraguana? This way of living and thinking must be abandoned. It is the way patriarchy thinks – that nature is a woman, to be dominated and controlled by men. It’s not only incorrect, it’s a path to suicide, because the only way to save our species and the planet is to understand the planet as part of us, and ourselves as part of the planet.
(Leonor Fuguet performs at the Fourth Congress of Biological Diversity. Photo by Quincy Saul/Ecosocialist Horizons)
There is a final indispensable point, which is necessary for the transition to ecosocialism. We need cooperation and coordination on a world scale, as never before in human history. For this we need an international ecosocialist organization. An ecosocialist international! There are two things I would like to say about this.
First, an ecosocialist international should come from the South. There are many reasons for this. Ecosocialism cannot be Eurocentric. Myself and many others have dedicated our lives to the struggle to transform the countries of the North in an ecosocialist direction. But I have to speak truthfully to you: we are nowhere near achieving our goals. I am not here to show you the dirty laundry of the left in the North, but I am advising with some knowledge: Do not wait for revolution in the “advanced” countries. Europe has had four chances in two centuries to construct a revolutionary international. As the Zapatistas say, “enough already!” Ecosocialism comes from the South.
Second, we should not call it “the fifth international.” We need something qualitatively different. As Jose Carlos Mariategui said, “We do not want American socialism to be a copy or an imitation, it should be a heroic creation. We must give life to Indo-American socialism with our own life, in our own language.”18 We must be more creative, more artistic, we must have more soul, than the first, second, third and fourth internationals.
Chavez once said something which sent shivers down my spine; he said it to another president, that “we, the presidents, go from summit to summit, while the peoples of our countries, they go from abyss to abyss.” This really hit me because many times we too do the same thing. We activists and intellectuals chase the elite around to protest at their conferences; jumping from summit to summit, while the people for whom we imagine we are struggling for, they remain in the abyss.
An ecosocialist international would have to be another kind of summit. Perhaps instead of a summit (cumbre), it could be a maroon community (cumbe). Like those constructed by the maroons in every country of Nuestramerica, from here in the Sierra, in Barlovento and in Yaracuy, to the maroon communities that formed islands of resistance in all parts of the hemisphere. Perhaps an ecosocialist international could be like the great Palmares in Brazil, where thousands of people lived, which they defended for centuries against European armies. An ecosocialist international could be like Palmares in the 21st century. Not only a reunion of delegates, but like a lighthouse on the riverside, as Atahualpa Yupanqui sang19, where an ecosocialist society is demonstrated, which proves its possibility and beauty. An international cumbe which would send ecosocialist cadre all over the world, to construct, incite, and coordinate a global revolution, because without a global revolution, it would not be able to survive.
Venezuela has twice been the motor of revolution on this continent: First, in the times of Simon Bolivar, who led South America towards independence from Spain. The second time it has been your turn, and our time, led first by Chavez, and now by all of you. Now, I believe that you have the opportunity to become a motor for a global revolution, of a world-wide ecosocialist metamorphosis.
I’m excited to be here in Punto Fijo, because here, on the tomb of the old Puntofijismo20, we can launch a new ecosocialist Punto Fijo, which will come from where the Zapatistas indicated – below, and to the left.
In Copenhagen at the climate summit in 2009, Chavez spoke to the world: “We are capable of making of this earth, not the tomb of humanity, but a heaven on earth, a heaven of life, of peace, and brotherhood for all humanity.” This heaven of life and peace, we call ecosocialism: This is the horizon where we focus our convictions and our hopes, our sciences and our souls, our reason and our faith. To paraphrase Simon Bolivar, we will invent ecosocialism, or we will fail.21
¡Planeta o Muerte, Convenceremos!
(Interview after the closing plenary on CANTV)
1. “Paraguana,” by Ali Primera: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4950IuenS8g
2. “Vaina” is a nearly untranslatable word used very frequently in Venezuela to refer negatively to something, substituting for a noun, from the weather to the capitalist system.
3. Science and the Modern World, by Alfred North Whitehead, The Free Press, 1953, p187
4. Literally “the squalid.” This is a term used once by President Hugo Chavez to describe the poorly attended rallies and demonstrations of the opposition in Venezuela. The name stuck and it now refers to all sectors of society that oppose the revolutionary process.
5. Literally, “neither neither”. This is a term used to refer to people who have refused to take sides in the revolutionary process.
6. This is the five year plan upon which Chavez ran for his last election campaign, and which now guides national policy.
7. Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (The state oil company)
8. “Synergy with the Devil,” by James Surowiecki, The New Yorker, January 2007
9. Referring to the emerging Bolivarian bourgeoisie and the Bolivarian oligarchy.
10. Some of the more well known bioregions of Venezuela.
11. The Socialist Alternative: Real Human Development, by Michael Lebowitz, Monthly Review Press, 2010
12. For more, see “An Ecosocialist Horizon for Venezuela: A Solar Communist Horizon for the World,” by David Schwartzman and Quincy Saul: http://ecosocialisthorizons.com/2014/10/an-ecosocialist-horizon-for-venezuela-a-solar-communist-horizon-for-the-world/
13. El Socialismo Puede Llegar Solo en Biciclet, por Jorge Riechmann, La Caterata, 2012
14. ALBA: Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra America (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America)
15. IIRSA: Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure of South America
16. UNASUR: Union de Naciones Suramericanas (Union of South American Nations)
17. ALCA: Area de Libre Comercio de las Americas (Free Trade Area of the Americas)
18. Quoted in the Plan Patria 2013-2019. Also see Jose Carlos Mariategui: An Anthology, Monthly Review Press, 2011
19. “Nada Mas” song by Atahualpa Yupanqui: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2rnLdwHqpM
20. “Puntofijismo” refers to the politics of the Punto Fijo Pact, which ruled Venezuela for decades prior to the election of Hugo Chavez. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punto_Fijo_Pact
21. The original is “inventamos o erramos”; we invent or we fail.